Workplace literacy in the fourth industrial revolution: The literacy 4.0 project

About the project

The Literacy 4.0 Project is examining the workforce literacy needs of the workplaces of the future.

Workplaces are said to be in the middle of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’, following the earlier transformations brought about by steam, electricity and digitisation. It is often referred to simply as ‘Industry 4.0’. The emerging ‘smart’ factories in Industry 4.0 increasingly rely upon automation augmented by artificial intelligence, the crowdsourcing of tasks, and the use of freelance workers engaged in microtasking.

In Industry 4.0 workplaces are changing into workspaces. They now form local nodes of a complex network of people, technologies and practices that constitute a potentially globally distributed workspace. Workspaces are dynamic, fluid, often transient, working units defined and bounded by regular, routine information and communications technology routes.

Established industry sectors, such as manufacturing in Australia and globally, have been disrupted by these changes, leading to job losses. There is a need to support transitions for existing workers into new jobs and to prepare new workers for the workplaces and workspaces of the future.

Not only is industry undergoing a revolution, but work literacy itself is also undergoing dramatic change. A key issue for success in Industry 4.0 is understanding the nature of the literate practice of contemporary work, and the literacy texts and practices that underpin the skills, knowledge and attributes required in the new workplaces. In other words, if we expect education across the lifecourse to prepare people for Industry 4.0, then we need to understand Literacy 4.0.

In this project we are addressing this issue. We want to know to what extent the literacy required in these new workplaces is more or less the same or and to what extent new literate practices are generated and new literacies required. If so, what are these new literacies, how are they demonstrated, and how can they be learned?

Our aim is to stimulate debate, and ultimately to inform policy and pedagogy, based not on predictions for the future but on a better understanding of what is happening in workplaces and workspaces now.

Project outcomes to date

Working Paper 1 Literacy Practices in the Gig Economy

This Working Paper focuses on one aspect of Industry 4.0, the Literacy Practices of the Gig Economy. We begin by examining Industry 4.0 and its implications for skills and literacy, and we present a brief history and justification for our preferred approach, Literacy Studies, followed by an outline of the gig economy. In the methodology section, we explain the methods used and the data gathered in this initial desktop survey. In Gig economy platforms we present the findings concerning the nature and processes of seven gig economy platforms. In Gig economy texts we present our findings on the nature and use of the key text categories required for the platforms. In Preparation for the gig economy text cycle we present some tentative findings concerning the extent to which key educational surveys address the gig economy texts. In the final section, Literacy practices in the gig economy, we summarise what we’ve done and what we’ve found. We conclude with a list of questions raised by this study and outline the further work that needs to be done.

Lectures

Dean's Lecture Series:

Workplace Literacies and the Factories of the Future

The rise of robotics in manufacturing requires workers to have sophisticated literacy skills so they can direct machines and join up innovation and production networks. With machines doing the work that people used to do, the way products are imagined, developed, produced and distributed is being transformed, creating new work for people.

However, 93 per cent of manufacturing employers report that low workforce literacy and numeracy are impacting their business, according to the Australian Industry Group. Educators, governments and the OECD share concerns about the relationship between workforce literacy skills, the productivity of global companies and the success of national economies. Professor Farrell will explore how the digital revolution, known as Industry 4.0, is fundamentally challenging our understanding of working literacies.

CVEP public seminar:

The Challenges of Industry 4.0 for Work and Literacy Education Policy

The Centre for Vocational and Educational Policy at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education is examining the workforce needs of the workplaces and workspaces of the future. These workplaces are said to be in the middle of a 'fourth industrial revolution', often referred to simply as 'Industry 4.0'. The emerging 'smart' factories in Industry 4.0 increasingly rely upon automation augmented by artificial intelligence, the crowdsourcing of tasks, and the use of freelance workers.

Established industries, such as manufacturing in Australia, have been disrupted by these changes, leading to job losses. There is a need to support transitions for existing workers into new jobs and the preparation of new workers for the workplaces of the future.

What are the implications of these changes for vocational literacy, training and careers guidance policy? These questions will be the focus of this symposium. Our aim is to stimulate debate, engage with stakeholders, and ultimately to inform policy and pedagogy, based not on predictions for the future but on a better understanding of what is happening in workplaces now.